(Falcon Part Four is available at my story blog)
The mud wars took place in the larger of the two ponds. A sleepover including a few other guys led us to the smaller one, and one of the most memorable Chris’ farm days.
Everybody brought his bicycle. At first, we just rode around in the fields, on the pond levees, and in the woods. One of the guys accidentally hit a large hole that stopped his bike cold and sent him over the handlebars. After he hit the ground face-down, the seat came over and hit him in the back of the head. We called it an “endo,” BMX terminology shorthand for “end over end.” Being boys, we made a game of it. We all gave it a try, and took pictures, but I can’t find them.
Then someone got the bright idea to build a ramp in front of the smaller and shallower pond.
We placed the ramp close enough to the water that even those who caught little air wouldn’t hit the ground. It wasn’t a problem, though; a hill led down to the pond, so building up speed for the ramp was easy. The rider sped to the ramp, pulled up slightly on the handlebars, and then enjoyed maybe a second of airtime before splashing down in the stagnant brown water.
The day is not fresh enough in my memory to quote much dialogue, but etched indelibly in my mind is the cry that often rang out after a splashdown.
“Where’s my bike?”
This resulted when the rider, due to the impact and the moisture, fell from and lost track of his bike under water.
I repeated this stunt, sans ramp, at an under-used apartment complex pool, at age 15. Much cleaner water. Same bike. I could see it if I lost track of it.
Pumping gas before leaving town once, I saw a man pull out a can of Skoal dipping tobacco and slap it against his thigh a few times. He carefully pulled off the lid and pinched a wad of tobacco, then pushed it down between his gums and his cheek. He wasn’t as good-looking as the first woman I saw doing that.
From an early age, I had a crush on Chris’ sister. Lori was about six or seven years older than we were, and she loved to ride horses. She had long, flowing blond hair, and smooth, unmottled skin. Her hands were fairly calloused because she was not the kind of farm girl to stay inside learning domestic skills. Lori worked with the animals, the hay, and performed other farm duties.
To my misfortune, she also dipped tobacco.
I didn’t like tobacco of any form, but since Cupid came around any time I was near Lori, my mind was in a smoky haze. One day when she was letting us ride her horse, she gave me what was left from a can of Skoal. It tasted disgusting and had no effect on me. Later, as I sat atop the horse, she gave me some from a fresh can. I felt dizzy and nauseated shortly after partaking, and probably much of that was thanks to my failure to spit often. Nevertheless, I looked forward to seeing Lori when I went to visit Chris.
By our teen years, my crush on Lori had died, thanks mostly to my inability to be enamored by a woman who dipped. She was married to a man who worked a job laying pipeline in Alaska or some such faraway land, which left Lori alone for long stretches. When Chris and I visited her home, a forest cabin, she explained that she had no running water, and showed us the steep hill she had to trudge down and up to fill her containers in the stream. I had never known anyone in our generation to do that.
I’ve heard it said one can never go home. When I return to my hometown for holidays, I inevitably end up making a trip to Wal-Mart, the only retail discount store in town. It’s a bit disheartening to walk around a store that large, with people at every turn, and see nobody I recognize.
More times than not, I bump into her when I go there. She gives me an update on her family, and we exchange a few pleasantries before going our respective ways. She’s a very nice woman, and I’m glad that through Chris I got to know her.